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Why Do Dogs Become Fussy Eaters
You buy only the best food to feed your dog. In fact, you're pretty certain that your dog eats better than you do! But even with the highest quality kibble on the market on offering in Fido's designer dog bowl, he still turns his nose up at it, and you're perplexed. The ingredient list says the food is full of nutritious, delicious things. If it didn't come in pellet form, you'd eat it yourself! Still, even though you've tried a number of different high quality foods, Fido just isn't that interested. What are you doing wrong? How can you get Fido to eat? If you're facing this problem, you most definitely aren't alone. Though it is not necessarily a problem that befalls all dogs, it is troubling if your dog happens to be one of the picky ones. Is this a problem that you have created, or is it just the way your dog is? There is little doubt that sometimes it's a bit of both. Most dogs are opportunists, and from past experience, they have learned that if they don't eat, you'll go to extraordinary lengths to make sure they do!
The Root of the Behavior
Many families face the problem of a picky dog. It's a frustrating situation to encounter. Other dog owners tell you that if your dog doesn't eat after half an hour to pick up his food and put it away; he'll be good and hungry by the time supper rolls around. But you've tried that, and Fido must be an exceptionally stubborn case because when it's time for his evening meal, he's still uninterested. Why is Fido so picky? A lot of owners assume their dogs become selective about their food because they are bored. After all, you'd get pretty bored of prime rib and mashed potatoes if you had it every single meal for months and months on end, right? If variety is the spice of life, maybe Fido is just craving a change? Experts disagree. While dogs do have nutritional requirements that must be provided through a properly balanced diet, they don't tire of foods as humans do. If Fido likes his food, he will devour it with relish for the entirety of his life. Though our modern day canine friends sometimes exhibit signs of being finicky eaters, the wild dog had little choice as to what his next meal would be.
In the wild, dogs had to hunt for their food to ensure their survival and the survival of their young. They would never pass up the opportunity to kill and eat a deer simply because they were sick of deer meat and were suddenly craving some fox instead. Dogs ate what they could kill or happened to find. Preference never entered the equation. Wild dogs also knew what it meant to experience hunger. At times, these dogs would have to go longer than is preferable between meals. When they were able to find a plentiful food source, they were grateful for it and ate their fill. It didn't matter what it was. Hunger and a powerful instinct to survive compelled them to not question what was available but to simply enjoy the procured sustenance. So, what's up with our pampered pooches? If wild dogs ate whatever was accessible to them, why is Fido holding out for something different? The truth is, Fido is a highly intelligent being. He knows that him skipping a meal hurts you more than it hurts him. And when you feel upset by his refusal to eat, you resort to things you might not normally consider, such as dispensing extra yummy treats or even allowing Fido to enjoy some of the tasty morsels normally reserved for YOUR food.
Encouraging the Behavior
Many people assume that table scraps are a no-no when it comes to our dogs. While this can be true, the reasoning behind it is two-pronged. Feeding food intended for human consumption can cause our dogs' gastrointestinal distress and other potential uncomfortable ailments, including vomiting and diarrhea. But more than this, food that is too rich for our dogs' digestive systems can lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be mild or severe, and its effects range from mild discomfort to death. Veterinary assistance must be immediately sought if pancreatitis is suspected in your pet. This alone is enough to compel most veterinary professionals to discourage feeding table scraps to our dogs. But the second element appeals more directly to finicky eaters. Our dogs can become selective in their food choices because our previous actions have taught them that if they do so, we will cave in and give them something they like better. Fido has turned the positive reinforcement tables on you and is now training you to do his bidding!
In recent years, home cooked and raw diets have become increasingly popular options for feeding our pets. Care must be taken to ensure that either of these approaches is completely nutritionally balanced; otherwise, the food intended to benefit Fido's health might actually make him very ill. Conversely, food prepared for human consumption might be sound for us to enjoy, but it most likely lacks the vitamins and nutrients necessary to fuel and maintain a healthy canine body. Still, it's hard to for us to resist slipping a little piece of chicken into Fido's bowl for a "treat" and when Fido is perched in front of you in his very best sit and giving you his puppy dog eyes, it is incredibly difficult to deny him the extra little snack he so desperately wants. The problem is, Fido soon learns how to manipulate you into giving him what he wants, and what he wants may not be what he needs or what is best for him. Feeding your dog table scraps can lead to obesity. Canine obesity is far more serious than appearance alone. Overweight pets are at a much higher risk for joint-related injuries and illnesses. The excess weight also puts great strain on the heart and lungs and if not properly addressed can lead to premature death.
Other Solutions and Considerations
But the greater danger of feeding people food to our favorite furry companions is that Fido now feels he has a choice. He plays on your emotions by refusing the high quality, nutritious food you have carefully selected for him because he knows that if he holds out that something he likes far better will be coming. If you are facing this problem with your beloved canine pal, the best thing you can do is be strong and refuse to give in to Fido's tactics. When it is meal time, place Fido's dish out for him. If he refuses to eat the food after 30 minutes of access to it, remove the food. A key portion of this regime is to not give Fido any food or treats AT ALL until the next meal time. When supper rolls around, out comes the same bowl of food. If he again turns up his nose at the food after 30 minutes of opportunity to eat, take the food away again. Fido now goes to bed hungry. Though this technique will make you feel mean, always remember that you are doing this for his own good. Fido descended from eating opportunists. When he realizes that his former tricks are not swaying you as they used to do, he will submit and eat the food that you provide for him. Make no mistake; the process will be hard for you, and Fido might be particularly stubborn and persist for several days. Stay strong! Fido's survival instinct is powerful, and he will not allow himself to starve. Eventually, he WILL eat.
Is Fido's picky eating habits driving you crazy? You are not alone. Many dogs attempt to manipulate their owners into providing something they find more appetizing (like your supper!) for their meals. By bucking up your courage and showing some tough love, you can help Fido learn to enjoy the meals you provide and improve his overall health in the process.
By a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan
Published: 03/08/2018, edited: 01/30/2020
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